BY Chibamba Kanyama-Government has invited the public and institutions to make submissions for the 2010 national budget and this gives us an opportunity to implore government to start the process trebling its allocation towards education if the 2030 National Vision is to be attained. The 2030 Vision is about making Zambia a Middle Income country along the lines of the Asian Tigers which enjoy per capita incomes of above US $3000. Zambia’s per capita income in real terms is hardly above US $500 at present and this means Zambia has an enormous task to attain the middle income status within the next 21 years.
Looking at the expenditure priorities at present, it is clear that the 2030 Vision will be an impossible milestone. The attainment of the 2030 Vision largely depends on the current performance of the Zambian economy and also about where government allocates resources. The budget is thinly distributed across several sectors, some of which have little long term benefits.
At present, the country’s GDP is within the range of K50 trillion (US $10 billion) and this is growing at the rate of 5.8 percent annually. For a developing economy, the growth rate has very little impact on the reduction of poverty and it cannot effectively support the country’s long term investment goals. Of the K15 trillion (US $3 billion) national budget, about 67 percent goes towards managing the existing administrative challenges while a paltry 33 percent is targeted at investments that lead to economic growth. And much of what is allocated towards capital and social investments depends on donor support, which in itself is presently unreliable.
This context explains the challenges that Zambia faces in meeting its Millennium Development Goals as well as the 2030 National Vision. In other words, much of the government expenditure is not linked to long term goals and the national vision. Government will need to be challenged and reminded about the need to support areas of long term benefits. If anything, many government officials are not even talking about the 2030 Vision and very few institutions, companies and individuals understand it.
One of the priority areas for meeting the National Vision is significant investments in education. The reason Zambia seriously lags behind in terms of economic growth and national development is because it has reduced its expenditure towards education. A country where the mass of the population is not educated can never support the growth processes of a country. The availability of well trained manpower is a significant determinant to foreign investments especially in the resource and skills sectors. In addition, the more educated the people are, the more they exploit economic and social opportunities available in the country.
In the post-independence period, investments in education enjoyed well over 25 percent of the national budget and this has now been reduced to below 12 percent. If the country has to tap into the opportunities of growth in the next two decades, a lot of sacrifices have to be made with regard to the expenditure pattern. Many ministries will have to lose a significant portion of their allocations to support education. This expenditure will go towards tertiary and mainstream education with a primary emphasis in college and university education.